The poet of beauty and sublimity is like a tour-guide, who wishes to direct the attention of the reader to some wonderful object in the world, with just the right words and gestures. The poet of ingenuity is like a street-performer, who wishes to draw the attention of the reader away from the world towards his own extravagant performance. Or to employ a somewhat more impressionistic comparison, the pleasure derived from the poetry of beauty and sublimity is akin to the pleasure derived from observing a sunrise, whereas the pleasure derived from the poetry of ingenuity is akin to the pleasure of completing a puzzle. When critics have referred to the delight afforded by poetry, they have been referring specifically to the delight which originates in beauty and sublimity, since that is the only form of delight by which we are truly moved. We might sum up the consensus of our critical tradition in the affirmation that poetry is a thing like a sunset, and not a puzzle.
Monday, November 14, 2011
... The University Bookman: Herrick and Donne and the Problems of Modernist Poetics. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)